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Frank Derby Story - LST 496
FRANK DERBY - LST 496 - U. S. Navy - Gunners Mate 3rd Class
Frank Derby joined the U. S. Navy on his 17th birthday on October 17, 1942. He resided in Phoebus, Virginia at the time. He was sent to boot camp for three weeks, then to gunnery school in Little Creek, Virginia. His first assignment was as a gunner on a guard crew for a merchant ship that traveled to many countries. He was sent back to the U. S. in Brooklyn, New York where he was assigned to LST 496. The ship traveled across the Atlantic to South Hampton, England in the Spring of 1944.
On April 27, 1944, LST 496 left from Plymouth. As the ship left port, he looked up and saw a German bomber fly overhead and remembers thinking that could be trouble for the convoy if the pilot reports seeing the ships leaving Plymouth. His assignment on LST 496 was the First Loader gunner on the stern of the top deck on a 5 inch 38 fixed gun. His ship joined the convoy at the rendezvous point in Lyme Bay in the early morning hours of April 28, 1944. He was on watch when he saw one of the other ships in the convoy get hit in the bow. He knew right away it was an enemy attack because of seeing the German bomber flying overhead the day before. He saw one of the German E-Boats go across the stern of LST 496 at 40 miles per hour and they fired 20 mm guns at the E-Boat as it was weaving in and out of the convoy.
Orders came for the remaining ships in the convoy to split up and head back to the closest port to get out of harms way. He received word from the British two or three days later about the great loss of life. He was told not to speak of that night as long as he was in the navy.
LST 496 and Frank went on to participate in D-Day and was assigned to Omaha Beach. Two miles off of Omaha Beach, the ship hit two German mines. He had just come off of his watch and was having coffee when the LST hit the mines. He was thrown in the air and landed on a steel bench and knocked unconscious. Water coming into the ship from the explosion revived him and he climbed up a ladder to the top deck. He was rescued, along with other men, by a LCVP boat from an LST that came along side. LST 496 sank in 18 minutes. There was great loss of life of Army soldiers who were trapped in the tank deck. Frank’s back was injured and he was sent to an American hospital in South Hampton. After three weeks, he was released and was assigned to an attack personnel destroyer for the rest of the war.